"Nixon's The One," said the magazines. "Nixon's The One," said the records (a precursor to the "Yes We Can" video?). "Nixon's The One," said the ads. And he was "the one" promising to bring about an end to an unpopular war launched by the other party.
And, while it's not the stuff of memory right now, Nixon was much more in touch with the popular culture than one might think. Yes, everyone remembers the famous photo with Elvis, but how about the visits by Sammy Davis Jr and James Brown? And, how about "Laugh-In" (the "Saturday Night Live" of its day).
But, the area where the similarity between Nixon and Obama is strongest is in that of fundraising. In short, the excesses brought to light during Watergate ushered in a period where politicians tried to place controls on the campaign fundraising structure. Indeed, the first law was passed right after the the huge Democratic Class of '74 came to power. Yet major parts of that law was struck down within two years in the Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo decision. And thus would be the pattern over the next several decades -- as fast as one group of politicians would write laws to stanch the flow of money -- than another group would identify a new loophole to exploit.
None of this would break down on party lines. Democrats were the ones who first exploited a loophole in the late '70s laws and created a club of donors that gave rise to the so-called "soft-money" explosion in the the '80s and '90s. Of course, Republicans immediately jumped on the bandwagon -- and roared past the Democrats. John McCain then became synonymous with campaign-finance reform. And, irony of ironies, he ended up having to run against the man who would raise more money than any other candidate in at least forty years. The New York Times frets that two RNC lawsuits threaten McCain-Feingold. Geez, talk about complaining that a couple of mice have bolted the stable -- after all the prize stallions have run off.
A 20-year Republican veteran of the fundraising wars is impressed by the similarities between Nixon '68 and Obama '08:
Still, what's there is there. Obama can't deny the truth: When it comes to sundering the campaign finance system as it as has come to be known over more than three decades, if there's a GOP prototype that has been Obama's model, well, "Nixon's the one."